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Cablegate: Hcmc Continues to Delay Legalizing Catholic Archdiocese

VZCZCXRO7850
PP RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #0665 1770521
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 260521Z JUN 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2784
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 1990
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 2985

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000665

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID SOCI PGOV PHUM PINR PREL KHIV VM
SUBJECT: HCMC CONTINUES TO DELAY LEGALIZING CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE
HIV/AIDS ACTIVITIES

REF: 06 HCMC 972 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) On June 16, Pol and CDC met with a representative of
Father John Dinh Toai, Director of the HCMC Archdiocese
"Pastoral Care" program for people living with HIV/AIDS . He
said that the biggest obstacle facing the church continues to be
the unwillingness of local authorities to grant legal status to
some site-specific activities. For example, since July 2005,
Pastoral Care has sponsored the Mai Tam Drop-In Center, which
houses HIV-positive mothers and orphaned children. Mai Tam does
not have a license, yet has received tacit approval from the
city government and Provincial AIDS Committee to operate. It
currently cares for 19 HIV-positive mothers and 32 orphans and
HIV-positive children. Mai Tam first applied for a license in
September 2005 and its application was "finalized" in December
2005. However, the Department of Labor, Invalids and Social
Affairs (DOLISA) has delayed approving the application,
reportedly over an internal disagreement of whether the approval
should come from the district in which the center operates or
from the city (provincial) government. Father Toai said that
the lack of a license for Mai Tam also has prevented Pastoral
Care from opening additional community-based care centers.

2. (SBU) Without a license, Mai Tam's residents are unable to
obtain official documents, including birth certificates for
orphans, which limits access to public services. For example,
most of the children from Mai Tam cannot attend school and seven
orphans that do not have HIV cannot be offered for adoption
without birth certificates and other documents. On occasion,
Mai Tam staff are questioned by local police, but the local
authorities have ceased to threaten to close the facility.
Father Toai also said that the Church has been waiting almost
one year for permission to build a comprehensive HIV/AIDS
hospice, treatment and training center on a 20-acre site it
purchased in HCMC's Can Gio District. The Church's plans call
for a 40 bed hospice and 140-160 beds for patients receiving
comprehensive treatment and training. The Church would like to
link the center with a small factory or enterprise on-site to
provide job skills and employment opportunities for the
patients. Other legal status delays include a hospice proposal
in Tan Phu District that currently operates from two houses.
While the police had threatened closure of the hospices, there
is now a truce since the HCMC Department of Health is
considering certifying this operation -- the application has
been pending for almost a year.

3. (SBU) Another site that is in jeopardy due to GVN delays of
systematizing procedures and operations is the DOLISA-run Nhan
Ai Hospital in Binh Phuoc Province. (Note: Nhan Ai Hospital
was formerly Trong Diem "06" (drug rehabilitation) center. In
September 2006 DOLISA converted this center into a
hospital/hospice concept for 05/06 Center residents with
end-stage HIV/AIDS. End Note.) However, due to issues ranging
form from funding to meeting government approval for body
disposal, Nhan Ai barely serves any patients - only seven are
reported to be in a facility that can support over 100. The
Church currently provides 12 of Nhan Ai's 99 staff. These staff
members began teaching children in neighboring villages how to
read and write but were stopped by police reportedly because of
concerns they would proselytize. The Church would like to
discontinue Nhan Ai support to redirect to higher need HIV/AIDS
activities. However, the Archdiocese fears government
retaliation in its other existing activities. As a result, it
is keeping the twelve staff in place.

4. (SBU) Comment: In many meetings to date, HCMC provincial
authorities, including a Vice-Chairman of the People's
Committee, have told us that they appreciate and support the
efforts of the Catholic Archdiocese to assist them in combating
HIV/AIDS. Up to a point, the authorities have been cooperative,
allowing the church to undertake many HIV/AIDS initiatives as
well as curbing sometimes hostile district police and local
officials. However, HCMC officials continue to drag their feet
on formally legalizing the Church's operations in HCMC.
However, with HCMC still lacking a comprehensive plan and
approach for community-based care, the problem of managing
people living with HIV/AIDS will continue to grow as more
residents of drug rehabilitation centers, roughly half of whom
are HIV-positive, are released into their communities. In
addition, without formal legal status, the well recognized and
effective efforts by the Catholics will suffer from lack of
public funding and coordination that leads to sustainability as
well as enhance HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment. End
Comment.
WINNICK

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